What Is True Default Divorce?

Sometimes, one spouse refuses to participate in their divorce. They willingly forfeit their right to have a say in their divorce proceedings. What happens then?

The term “true default divorce” describes what comes next. Let’s explore what true default divorce is and examine its pros and cons.

What is a true default divorce?

A true default divorce occurs when one spouse fails to respond to the divorce petition, effectively giving up their right to have any say in the divorce process. 

A person may do this for various reasons. They may be unaware of the divorce petition (despite receiving personal service). Or, they may choose not to contest the contest of the petition.

In any case, their lack of response signals the court to proceed with the divorce without their input.

Reasons why a spouse might intentionally give up their rights

A spouse may intentionally fail to respond to a petition for divorce. Why? They may believe the outcome of the divorce would be unfavorable to them regardless of what they do. They may want to avoid the emotional turmoil and financial burden associated with a contested divorce, divorce lawyers, and court hearings. Or, they may have decided to simply let their ex, the Petitioner, take the reins.

In this scenario, the Petitioner can request the court to grant a default judgment, which typically awards the Petitioner everything they requested in their initial petition.

What if the spouse is on active military duty?

If the recipient of the Petition is serving in the military and deployed during the time the divorce papers are served, due to the nature of their service and the challenges associated with communication and logistics, they may not receive the required notification or be able to respond within the required time frame.

In such cases, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides protections for active-duty military personnel, allowing them to request a stay of proceedings or a delay in the default judgment.

Pros and cons of true default divorce

For the Petitioner

The primary advantage of true default divorce is the potential for a quicker and less expensive divorce process. Since the Respondent does not contest the divorce, there is no need for lengthy negotiations or court battles. The filing spouse may receive a favorable judgment if the respondent fails to participate in the proceedings.

However, there are risks involved for the Petitioner. If the Respondent later challenges the default judgment, the Petitioner may face additional legal fees and delays. If the court finds that the judgment is unfair or inequitable in any way – property division, custody of minor children, spousal support – it may be modified or even set aside entirely.

For the Respondent

In a true default divorce, there is one major drawback for the Respondent: They lose their right to have a say in the divorce process. 

In other words, if they find something unfair in the proposed divorce terms, they cannot present their side of the story or negotiate for more favorable terms. They risk receiving an unfavorable judgment that could impact their finances, child custody arrangements, and well-being.

Read Why Most People Should Consider Filing a Response, Even in an Amicable Divorce for important information all Respondents should know before allowing a true default divorce to happen.

If you're considering divorce or have been served with divorce papers, think about discussing options regarding your divorce case with us at Hello Divorce. Our goal is to make divorce affordable and achievable for everyone.

Suggested: True Default Divorce vs. Uncontested Divorce

Founder, CEO & Certified Family Law Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Insights, Legal Insights
After over a decade of experience as a Certified Family Law Specialist, Mediator and law firm owner, Erin was fed up with the inefficient and adversarial “divorce corp” industry and set out to transform how consumers navigate divorce - starting with the legal process. By automating the court bureaucracy and integrating expert support along the way, Hello Divorce levels the playing field between spouses so that they can sort things out fairly and avoid missteps. Her access to justice work has been recognized by the legal industry and beyond, with awards and recognition from the likes of Women Founders Network, TechCrunch, Vice, Forbes, American Bar Association and the Pro Bono Leadership award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Erin lives in California with her husband and two children, and is famously terrible at board games.